Led Into the Wilderness

16 Aug
Wilderness of people - 3

from Google Images

Both Matthew and Mark begin their record of Jesus’ ministry immediately after his forty day bout with Satan and also after John was put in prison (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14). Luke, however, records several weeks of Jesus’ ministry before coming to events that occurred after John’s imprisonment (Luke 7:1-10; cf. John 3:22-23; 4:1, 46-53). Several Sabbaths are mentioned between Luke 4:14 (after Jesus’ temptations but before John’s imprisonment) and Luke 7:1 (the beginning of events occurring after John’s imprisonment in Luke’s Gospel). What can be said of these things?

I believe a case can be made that the events covered by Luke before healing the centurion’s servant in Luke 7:1-10 (i.e. Luke 4:14 to Luke 6:49) occur not only before John’s imprisonment, but highlight Jesus 40 day period mentioned in all three Synoptics (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). In other words Matthew 4:1-11 & Luke 4:1-13 are the skeleton upon which the flesh of Luke 4:14 to 6:49 can be placed! How was Jesus really tempted? Luke tells us immediately following his outline. Where did the temptations take place? The Scriptures tells us in the wilderness, but does this mean the desert regions of Judea? I hardly think so. Notice that the fourth Gospel says John confessed who Jesus was, but he didn’t know him until he was given a sign from heaven (John 1:29-34). On the day following this, John told two of his disciples Jesus was the Messiah, and they left John to follow Jesus (John 1:35-39). Immediately, three others are called to follow Jesus (John 1:40-51). On the next day, the third day after John’s meeting with Jesus (John 2:1), Jesus and his disciples attended a wedding in Galilee. The text doesn’t allow 40 days in the wilderness prior to Jesus coming into Galilee after his baptism.

Consider the fact that people who don’t know God (i.e. people considered to be in spiritual Babylon) are considered a wilderness (Ezekiel 20:34-35), and this is contrasted with the wilderness into which Israel was taken when they left Egypt (Ezekiel 20:36). In this wilderness God intends to plead with his people a second time (Ezekiel 20:36; Micah 6:2; cf. Luke 4:1-13). Thus, the wilderness into which the Lord was led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1) doesn’t indicate a region within Palestine but the spiritual condition of his people—a dry and thirsty people (cf. Ezekiel 19:13; 20:35).

With this wilderness as his court, Jesus would plead with his people (Ezekiel 20:36; Jeremiah 2:8-9) and the sense should be taken in legal terms. Both Matthew and Luke follow the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) and have Jesus contending with the Devil (slanderer), but Mark has him contending with Satan or adversary (the accuser), following the Hebrew text. Satan or accuser is more fitting for the context of Jesus pleading (legally) over his people’s spiritual condition. Moreover, although Jesus pleads with his people, his people (or at least some of them) accuse or plead against (i.e. playing the part of Satan) him:

“Appoint an evil one over him (over Jesus), an accuser (Satan) to stand at his right hand, That he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain.” (Psalm 109:6-7; parenthesis mine)[1]

When Jesus warned that the bread of the Lord would go to the gentiles rather than his people, if the Jews didn’t repent (Luke 4:3-4; 25-27), they tried to destroy him by casting him head first off a cliff (Luke 4:29). When Jesus healed a man who had a withered right hand on the Sabbath day (Luke 6:6-10), the scribes and Pharisees, who had set a trap for him (Luke 6:6), were filled with madness and gathered themselves with the Herodians in an effort to destroy him (Luke 6:11; Mark 3:6; cf. Luke 4:5-8 and Psalm 2:1-2). Again, when Jesus cast out the evil spirits from the people and healed all their diseases (Luke 6:18-19; cf. Matthew 12:22-24; Mark 3:7-11, 20-22; cf. Luke 4:9-12), the scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of using the power of evil to destroy evil, and demanded a sign (Matthew 12:38-39)—which had to be a sign of their own choosing, because Jesus was already showing many signs and wonders, but he was accused of doing it all through the power of the evil one. Therefore, they sought a sign—one of their own choosing (“change these stones into bread” or “cast yourself down from this pinnacle”), tempting him (Luke 4:12).

Thus, it seems clear that not only did Jesus plead with a wilderness of (spiritually thirsty) people (Ezekiel 20:35; Luke 4:1), but the rulers of the people—the hills and mountains of Luke 3:5—also tried Jesus (if you are the Son of God… cf. Psalm 109:6-7; Luke 4:3) and demanded him to do whatever they said—give us bread (whatever we want, and when we want it), worship us (let us command you), cast yourself down…, i.e. force God to do what he promised but according to our will, naming it and claiming it.


[1] NAB – revised edition


Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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14 responses to “Led Into the Wilderness

  1. Clifford the tekton

    August 18, 2016 at 22:17

    Okay, my brother.. I understand completely about lack of technical expertise, which I suffer from as well. I will henceforth speak freely knowing that our Lord has complete control of who reads these words.
    My hesitation about revealing information is mostly about my desire for a forum where I might completely present the picture of the scenario I envision, before skeptical views try to shoot it down. I trust, however, having read a lot of your work, that I might be able to share my thoughts in a more secure environment.
    I wrestled and prayed for months when I was sensing the Holy Spirit leading me through this. He seemed to say that Joseph’s wife was very present throughout the scriptures and after a while I saw it. Mary of Magdala was married to Joseph of Amathusia (Arimathea), their hometowns being only minutes apart.

    • Eddie

      August 19, 2016 at 06:47

      Greetings Clifford. We pretty much have the same people in the same family, but we differ in how they are related.

  2. Clifford the tekton

    August 18, 2016 at 16:33

    Also, concerning the disciple whom Jesus loved.. the gospels list 4 people specifically whom Jesus loved.
    The first three, of course, are Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11).
    But there was a fourth man, who is noticably absent from the fourth gospel. He is seen in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. Luke calls him a ruler. If I recall correctly, the same word is used for Nicodemus in John 3. It can be interpreted to refer to a rabbi.
    The accounts also state that this possible rabbi was extremely wealthy. I take it that both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin. So I’m saying this rich young ruler may be Joseph himself. Your point is well taken that Joseph was not present with Mary when she saw the Lord. However, he was the first person that she ran to tell. And he was the first man to reach the tomb, out-running Peter….
    So much more to say…

    Another aside…
    Do you think it would be within the character of the early church and apostles to enter into a conspiracy of silence, so to speak, being in agreement to not speak openly of Mary, mother of Jesus, and her whereabouts, for the sake of her safety? I can envision Joseph insisting upon it. And going further, might Joseph also have insisted upon going incognito himself, also for protection of Mary (and other reasons), since he was charged with her safekeeping by Jesus himself? He might have gone by a nickname after divesting himself of riches… Perhaps Barnabas? And is it inconceivable that the other gospel writers might have agreed to this silence and withheld these connections, and Joseph himself wrote of himself in the third person?
    I’m wondering if you think that a conspiracy like this would be in keeping with Christian and apostolic ethics. I think so.

    • Eddie

      August 18, 2016 at 21:25

      Greetings Clifford. You should find in the link I provided in one of my previous replies to you that we are both interested in this rich young ruler. See link HERE.

      There are areas of agreement and disagreement, but in this kind of study, it is difficult to be dogmatic. Some assumptions must be made, backed up with Scripture whenever possible.

      Oh, I am in full agreement with you on the conspiracy thing. The nascent church was very vulnerable and had to be as wise as serpents. Naming names and giving the whereabouts of key individuals had to be cloaked in some fashion. For example, Luke is the only Gospel narrator who doesn’t name the women at the foot of the cross. Why? It is my contention that Luke’s addressee, Theophilus, was the current high priest at Luke’s writing. He was the son of Annas, the high priest who was so active in Jesus’ trial and death.

      Another covert matter is Luke’s ‘so called’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. It is really a rabbinical story in which Jesus uses the words of the rabbis against them, but the key characters speak volumes. For example, the rich man is clothed in the colors of the high priest. Theophilus couldn’t miss that point, but it wasn’t overt enough to accuse Luke (or Jesus) of wrongdoing.

      I think it is telling than no single Gospel narrator unequivocally identifies anyone who is living at the time of their writing (and I believe all wrote very early). One needs all four Gospel narratives to enter into a study in order to draw conclusions about the actors involved in Jesus’ public ministry. Even some of the Apostles have different names. The Jewish authorities, especially the Annas family persecuted the nascent church, worldwide. In fact, until Nero, they were the only persecutors who drew the believers’ blood, and truth be known, Nero may have persecuted believers at the instigation of Annas. They were friends.

  3. cliffordjonessr

    August 18, 2016 at 11:11

    Hi Eddie,
    Is the fact that there is no reply link after your comments intentional? I’ll just reply here.
    You mentioned that you had written about Joseph’s family ties at the certain link, but the hyperlink apparently failed. I would be interested in seeing it.
    I enjoy reading your blogs because everything is thoughtful and underpinned by scripture, even though our interpretations may vary somewhat at time to time.
    The reason I am writing a novel is to present my theories about Joseph in a scenario, trying to show the whole picture so that this character might be fully appreciated for who he was/is. I can’t be dogmatic, but when the whole scenario is presented, just the weight of it may convince many to understand that the most quoted words of the most quoted book of the most quoted collection of books in the history of mankind was written by someone named Joseph, not John… of course, that’s really not important in the grand scheme of things, but other information that I seem to have dug up along the way has had a way of really informing my study of the Bible, but not in some arcane manner, but rather to reveal the joy of Bible study. I think the novel will be an edifying thing to the church at large.
    By presenting it in novel form, at least the scenario can be shown full blown before the inevitable critiques come.
    Anyway, this blog isn’t about my book. However, I could go into more detail in personal correspondence, if you like.
    Jesus is Lord!

    • Eddie

      August 18, 2016 at 21:23

      Greetings Clifford. Thank you for your kind words about my blog.

      Concerning the fact there is no link after my comments for one to ‘click’ reply, I am uncertain why this is so. I’m not very good with understanding computer tech stuff. Usually, it was something like “try this” and “see what this does” when it came to constructing my blog site. Maybe, I checked a wrong box somewhere—don’t know. :-)

      You are correct; the link didn’t work, but I corrected it. But you can also find it HERE.

      Concerning personal correspondence about your book, I would be delighted to talk the Bible with you under any conditions, but I’m afraid I might leak out things you plan to publish in your book. The fact is, if I embrace a truth, it is really difficult to keep quiet about it. I don’t think you could trust me, so for friendship sake, we better keep this part of our correspondence public. This way, you are in full control of the data that is leaked out! :-)

      Lord bless you Clifford, and please remember to let me know when your book is published.

  4. cliffordjonessr

    August 16, 2016 at 23:47

    Just for clarity of my proposition…
    John 1
    24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
    [The above was said after the baptism but during Jesus’ absence to the wilderness. John did not know the whereabouts of Jesus but knew he was around somewhere. The day after this conversation, the following verses occurred, in my scenario.]
    29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said [past tense], ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him [past tense – could be 40 days past], but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw [past tense] the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained [past tense] on him. 33 I myself did not know him [past tense], but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
    [The following days, Jesus commenced his ministry, calling disciples and going to the Galilee.]
    So, I don’t see what the problem is, although I am not going to be dogmatic about it. It seems to harmonize to my mind.

    • Eddie

      August 17, 2016 at 06:56

      Greetings Clifford, don’t know if it is a typo or a translation of which I am unaware, but for verse-28 what I have is Bethabara, not Bethany. As we agreed in previous exchange, it is difficult to be dogmatic about chronology on some things, because the Gospel narratives require some interpretation to put things in chronological order.

      For clarity: I believe all that comes before John 1:29a: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him” occurred before Jesus’ baptism. Notice that the writer of the fourth Gospel has Jesus coming to John. The Synoptics have Jesus and John meeting only once. Neither does the fourth Gospel have them meet again, unless John 1:29 is presumed to be a second meeting, and the first and more important meeting goes unrecorded. Why would the writer of the fourth Gospel record Jesus and John meeting a second time, but record nothing of what was said, and completely ignore their first meeting?

      I have John 1:29b “…and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” occurring immediately after Jesus’ baptism. This seems to agree with Luke 4:1 which has Jesus return, presumably to Galilee (which would agree with John), and after returning there, Jesus was led or driven into the **wilderness** by the Spirit.

      Lord bless you, Clifford.

    • cliffordjonessr

      August 17, 2016 at 09:21

      Per your question, Eddie, I’m using the ESV.

      The thrust of my novel is to suggest that the tradition that John wrote the fourth gospel is impossible, based on the contents of the book itself. My novel, if by God’s grace I am able to complete it, provides the scenario pointing to the actual author.

      My theory has the writer of the gospel relating only what he personally witnessed, which is why it’s so different from the other three.
      So if he didn’t actually see Jesus’ baptism but heard John speaking of it later, that would account for only the second meeting of Jesus and John having been recorded.
      The writer of John’s gospel presents a compilation of the notes which he took during his time with Jesus, which also explains the absence of much of what the other three present. Apparently the author spent more time with Jesus during festivals. I also maintain he was witness to the trials because of who he was and also the Cross, from which the Twelve had fled, according to prophecy.

      As an aside, Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration. So if of the three, only one wrote a gospel, why was his gospel the only one lacking a reference to the transfiguration? Haha.

      I hope I have not sidetracked your blog with my comments.
      God bless you too, Eddie!

      • Eddie

        August 17, 2016 at 11:54

        Greetings Clifford. I’m not a real stickler when it comes to staying on track all of the time. Side tracks occur.

        Neither do I believe John, the Apostle, is the author of the fourth Gospel. I believe the disciple whom Jesus loved is Barnabas of Acts, and Joseph of Arimathea of the Gospels. He is also Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary. Barnabas was a name given him by the Apostles, while Lazarus, I believe, is an encrypted name given him, because the authorities sought his life, on account of Jesus raising him from the dead. The study goes into much more detail, but, for the record, he’s my choice. :-)

        Lord bless.

        • cliffordjonessr

          August 17, 2016 at 12:13

          Okay, now I’m stunned. I’ve never heard anyone apart from myself who thought Joseph of Arimathea was Barnabas.
          He was the groom at the wedding in Cana, I think.
          I don’t want to go further publicly, but I don’t follow you with Lazarus. If he were in the grave at the time, how would he describe his sisters’ behavior outside the tomb? The author states that he was a witness to the things he wrote. I believe Joseph was present and was family but by marriage (mysterious hint without further explanation until I can get the book written).
          Barnabas literally means son of prophecy. So how it interpreted to mean Son of Consolation (the title of my novel)? I think because of the prophecy which is being cited… “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” The man who gave Jesus his own grave, who provided the shroud, who later sold the empty grave and adjoining garden to provide the money to the church… so many other comforts that he provided…
          I think I need to write more novel hahaha..
          Another hint.. everyone at Jesus’ grave was family.

        • Eddie

          August 18, 2016 at 08:35

          Greetings Clifford, I might say the same of you. I had no idea you would agree to that (Joseph = Barnabas). However, I never heard of him being the groom at the wedding in Cana. I have Joseph being the other disciple of John with Andrew in John 1.

          Concerning Lazarus being the author / witness of the fourth Gospel, the author couldn’t have “witnessed” everything he wrote. For example, much of John 1 concerning Jesus being the Word of God etc. is good theology, but he couldn’t have witnessed it. Moreover, it is assumed that Mary was alone at the gravesite before she went to get Peter and the author of the fourth Gospel. He couldn’t have witnessed what Mary saw, nor Jesus appearing to her, the first human witness of Jesus’ resurrection. There would be little doubt about what occurred, while he was in the grave; there were so many witnesses to what occurred. It was probably told again and again, as many people wanted to see Lazarus after his resurrection.

          An additional point would be: why would folks so readily assume the author of the fourth Gospel might never die (John 21)? Since Lazarus was already resurrected, it wasn’t known, if a resurrected person could die. The Jews’ understanding of life in the resurrection wasn’t as complete as ours is in the New Testament.

          Indeed, Joseph was family. If you care to take the time, you may read my study HERE.

          Lord bless you, Clifford, and let me know when your book is published.

  5. cliffordjonessr

    August 16, 2016 at 11:33

    Having recently written about Jesus’ baptism in a paraphrased, novelized form, I did notice some details that I built upon.
    The gospels seem to have flexibility at some points about the chronological order of events. The fourth gospel only speaks of Jesus’ baptism through the mouth of John the baptizer, and I think it’s important to note that he speaks of it in *past tense*.
    I found that for purposes of my story, John 1:29 happens at the exact time when Jesus was *returning* from the wilderness to his previous encampment, returning at that moment from his 40 day absence after having been baptized 40 days previously.
    In my narrative, two of John’s disciples had been aware of Jesus’ absence all those weeks that followed his dramatic baptism. They and John were all a little startled to see Jesus just walking by after his unexplained absence.
    Therefore, their remarks, “Where are you staying?” could actually be similar to as if they had said, “Where have you been all this time?”
    They followed him from that point.
    Right now I’m working on John’s arrest.

    Matthew and Mark are the only two actually appearing to place the baptism into the order of events. Luke appears to present it in his narrative as a commentary, basically saying that it happened at some point.

    I’m a little disconcerted with what appears to me to be an allegorization of the wilderness in your blog. Am I incorrect about this?
    One of the best things I’ve ever heard about hermeneutical rules of interpretation is to never allegorize unless the context instructs the reader to allegorize.

    • Eddie

      August 16, 2016 at 22:42

      Greetings, Clifford. Please note that I made the typo correction you noted in you second comment, and I deleted that comment.

      We agree that there is some flexibility in the chronological order of events in the Gospels. Some interpretation is needed to say which came first and what the time difference might be. Having said this, I’m not sure we could place 40 days before John 1:29. I believe this is implied if we compare John 1:26-27 and John 1:29-32. In the first set of verses John tells those he is with that there is one who stands among them that they don’t know. It doesn’t appear that John knows either, because he doesn’t point him out. Yet, the very “next day” John does point Jesus out to those who are with him, and John admits to his own surprise that he didn’t know Jesus, and pointed to the sign given him by God which John was able to use to identify Jesus.

      One could interpret this away and conclude Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted, but I am unwilling to do that. John gives us a ‘day’ count for a reason (in my opinion), which seems to lose all significance, unless John 1:29 is the day of Jesus’ baptism. John’s disciples ask where Jesus is staying, because it is more than a day’s walk back to Galilee from Bethabara.

      Concerning Luke, I don’t think I can agree with your understanding. Luke 4:1 says that Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan… Where did he return to? John has him returning to Galilee within two days, and spent the third day at a ‘wedding’. Luke 4:1 says that when Jesus returned, the Spirit led or drove him into the wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be room for a literal wilderness. I’ve tried to find a block of time whereby Jesus was in a literal wilderness and tempted, but it simply isn’t there. At least I can’t find one.

      Lord bless you Clifford in what you write about him in your book.


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